In the last 18 months, Wales has seen nearly 150 children — some as young as two — trafficked to the area.
The majority were girls who were trafficked for sexual exploitation according to the Welsh Government’s anti slavery co-ordinator, Stephen Chapman. All of the children have been identified as victims of modern slavery and given assistance.
Related Campaign: Help trafficked children in the UK.
One girl, Eva, who is from Lithuania, recalled that a friend of a neighbor had promised her a job caring for his sister’s children. However, when she arrived she quickly realized there was no nanny job.
“He brought someone to show me how to shave my legs and I’m thinking, ‘If I’m going to be a nanny why do I need to shave my legs? Why do I need to put makeup on?'” she said.
Eva was forced into sex work, only able to escape when she told her pimp that she needed her passport to get treatment at a sexual health clinic.
Yet she had nowhere to live and was not entitled to benefits, so she had to continue doing sex work while she bounced around friends’ sofas and homeless hostels.
The BBC reports:
Since January 2017, Wales has been one of three independent child trafficking advocates early adopter sites along with Greater Manchester and Hampshire.
It means all children identified as potentially trafficked in Wales must be referred into Barnardo’s ICTAs service who will make contact with the child within 24 hours and help them navigate the complex systems of social care, immigration and criminal justice.
In 2012 there were 34 potential adult and child victims referred to the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) National Referral Mechanism and passed to Welsh police forces for crime recording purposes. This jumped to 193 in 2017.
Victims are often forced to work on construction sites, cultivating cannabis, in brothels, nail bars and car washes.
Eva finally escaped her ordeal in 2017, when she was introduced to charity Red Community. The nonprofit had been looking to support survivors of human trafficking through employment, which led to the birth of coffee roastery Manumit.
Manumit sources ethical coffee beans and employs two trafficking survivors to roast the beans, paying them the national living wage. Eva was one of the first employees.
“It’s the best life experience I ever had. The best job ever. I have my own home, I have my own bedroom, living room kitchen and a garden with flowers, I’m really happy,” she said.